Can a Litter Box Go in a Closet? (and how to stop the smell)

A closet isn’t an ideal location for a litter box. 

Most closets are small, dark, and poorly ventilated. Many cats prefer open areas with multiple exits, so they don’t feel cornered. The lack of ventilation will worsen odors, which may stick to clothes or linen kept in the closet. 

If you’re set on having a litter box in the closet, be sure your cat is comfortable with it and you still have other litter boxes available throughout your home. 

Can you put a litter box in a closet?

It’s not always okay to put a litter box in a closet. Some cats have an instinctual desire to always have multiple escape routes, never wanting to feel cornered-in. Placing a litter box in a small closet with a single entrance can directly conflict with these instincts.

Gray cat among the clothes in closet

In the wild, cats can be pretty particular about when and where they urinate or defecate. It’s a time when they’re particularly vulnerable to predators.  

This instinct has been passed on to many of their domesticated ancestors.

As a result, some cats will have a strong desire to have multiple escape routes when using the litter box, while others may not have much of a preference. 

The average closet is pretty small and often has a single exit. When a litter box is placed in such a space, it can be stressful for cats who carry these instincts.

This is especially true in multi-pet homes, where your cat is more likely to be approached while using the litter box.

But that doesn’t mean that a closet is never an option for a litter box.

Lighting and access

Though cats have great night vision, a pitch black closet still isn’t ideal. 

If you’re going to keep a litter box in the closet, you’ll need to add a constant, dim light source — a cracked door won’t cut it. Hanging decorative string lights or a simple nightlight should do the trick.

Also, keep in mind that your cat needs constant access to all of their litter boxes. They’re not like dogs who will hold it. They will simply find another place to go.

Leaving the door ajar will work, but you need to ensure that you don’t close the door out of habit and that guests and other family members are aware of the situation.

Alternatively, you can install a pet door. Just be sure your cat is okay with having a litter box in the closet before making permanent changes to your home.

Gray and white long haired cat in dim lighting

How to move a litter box to a closet

The best type of closet to put a litter box in is a large, walk-in closet with two entrances. Unfortunately, these types of closet are rare. 

If you’re dead set on having a litter box in a smaller closet, you’ll need to take measures to verify that your cat is okay with it. 

For starters, make sure the litter box you put in the closet isn’t the only litter box your cat has access to. Remember, you need to have at least one litter box per cat in your home, plus one.

When experimenting with a new litter box, it’s best to add an additional litter box, rather than just moving an existing one. For example, if you normally have one cat and two litter boxes, add in an additional third box to trial in the closet. 

Place the new litter box in the closet and introduce your cat to it if they’re willing. If they seem hesitant, try again at a later time. You want the introduction to be as stress-free as possible. 

Observe your cat and see how they react to the new litter box over the following weeks.

If they start using it regularly, you can remove one of the other litter boxes if you see fit. If they don’t use it or use it infrequently, it’s probably not to their liking. The other litter boxes should be kept in place. 

How to make a litter box in a closet smell better

While you probably won’t ever make a litter box smell good, especially in a small space like a closet, there are steps that you can take to make it smell better. 

The type of litter you choose can help drastically reduce unpleasant odors.

Avoid artificially scented litter. While it may seem like the perfumes would help, they often do the opposite. In a small, unventilated space like a closet, artificial fragrances will be overpowering. Not to mention, artificial fragrances may be irritating to your cat in general. 

Instead, use a naturally scented litter.

Pine litter is particularly effective at managing odor. Not only does it have a pleasant, mild pine smell, it has natural antimicrobial properties that actually help to eliminate odor, not just mask it. 

Frequent cleaning, while always important, is especially helpful when the litter box is in a smaller space.

Poop should be scooped as soon as possible after use. Clumps and soiled litter should be removed at least once daily, ideally twice. Litter may need to be changed more often than the manufacturer recommends. Let your nose be your guide. 

Cat laying on pile of clothes in closet

Will keeping a litter box in the closet make my clothes smell?

If you keep a litter box in a closet with clothes or linen, odor will likely cling to the fabric. While there’s no perfect solution, the best defense is keeping the litter box as clean as possible.

Using a low-dust litter, like paper or pine pellets, will help to reduce airborne particles that carry scent. 

Ventilating the closet by leaving the door cracked or open will help odor diffuse, lessening the amount that sticks to your clothes.

Ultimately, a litter box in a closet with clothes or linen is far from ideal. Our sense of smell can quickly become accustomed to the things that we smell regularly. You don’t want to become ‘nose blind’ to the litter box odor clinging to your clothes. 

Final thoughts 

Considering all the issues associated with keeping a litter box in the closet, it’s probably best to just find a better location for it. 

If you insist on having a litter box in a closet, make sure to keep it as clean as possible, allow your cat constant access, and add a source of light. 

If your cat seems hesitant to use the litter box in the closet, it’s probably just not a good fit for your cat. Don’t force it. 

About Matthew Alexander

Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.